When your Google calendar and iPhone reminder flash GYN appointment, time to get a bikini wax, you probably think to yourself, Ugh, maybe I can come up with an excuse to cancel. And after a couple times of “I have a cold. I have a work event,” and simply, “I totally forgot,” you finally force yourself to come in and see us. The annual GYN exam is sort of like jury duty. You can run, but you can’t hide. At some point, your GYN needs will catch up with you, and you will have to sit in our “chair.” And while we are certainly not asking you to judge anything, we are asking you to recap your past year(s) and think about your future. Am I ready to have a baby? Should I be on contraception? Do I need a Pap smear, STD screening, or a breast exam? We want to break it all down and make sure that you are doing the best things for your body.
First things first. Your trip to the GYN should be yearly (at the least). Although acute issues (UTI, vaginal discharge, vaginal itching, abnormal vaginal bleeding) may require an immediate trip, the routine stuff doesn’t need to be dealt with more than yearly. And while this yearly meeting may no longer include a Pap smear, it should most certainly include a discussion on previous Pap smears and future Pap smear screening. The recommendations have been modified, and women in their 20s and 30s without a history of abnormal Pap smears may no longer need yearly cervical checks. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to check in with your OB/GYN. Despite the common misconception, we GYNs do a whole lot more than Pap smears!
This annual aloha should first and foremost include a lot of talking. We will discuss eating habits, exercise, sleep patterns, work-life balance, stressors, medications (both prescription and supplements), and relationships. Have your parents, siblings, or grandparents acquired new diseases? Have there been new genetic findings in the family? Additionally, it is super important to address all things sex: sexual health, sexual orientation, and sexual activity (nothing is off limits with your GYN!). We also need to address drinking, smoking, and partying behaviors. While we are totally down with you having a good time, we want to make sure that you are safe. Lastly, no visit to the GYN would be complete without a period pow-wow. What’s going on with your period? What’s the cadence of the bleeding? Are you spotting, and are you having crazy cramps? Abnormalities in your period can shed a lot of light on what’s going on with your ovaries and uterus.
When it comes the exam part, it’s important to have your blood pressure checked and your height and weight measured every year. We also recommend a yearly breast and pelvic exam. For those who are sexually active, STD screening is a good idea (age and risk factors are used to determine whom to screen, for what disease, and how frequently). In women with a strong family history or a personal history of a particular condition, we may consider checking certain blood levels such as cholesterol and lipids (fat). If other symptoms arise—problems hearing, seeing, or headaches—we will address them with the appropriate tests. In many ways, the visit is a debrief, a review of what went well and what didn’t go so well the year before. Together, we can plan on how to attack your next year head on.
Without trust, you won’t be comfortable bearing it all—which is big-time important in making sure you stay healthy. Like all good partnerships, your relationship with your GYN of choice needs to be built on trust. Unlike the jury you may be called to sit on, we are totally not judging you (for what you do/did or if you waxed/shaved!). We want to take the evidence you present us with and make sure you are not doing your body or your brain any harm. Some actions can stay on your permanent record, no matter how good your lawyer is. Let us make sure your record stays clean!